Tag Archives: robotics

Japan’s Prime Minister Is Planning to Host the World’s First Robotic Olympics in 2020

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wants his country to be on the cutting edge of the robotics industry. During a recent visit to a number of Japanese factories that build robots for industrial and care-giving purposes, Abe revealed his plans to bring about a “robotic revolution” in Japan.

These plans include tripling Japan’s robotics budget to 2.4 trillion yen (~$23.5 billion USD) to make robotics a “major pillar” of Japan’s economic growth in the future. Abe also revealed his intention to host the world’s first robotic olympics.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe examining a robot working on an assembly line at a factory in suburban Tokyo (Photo: AFP)

“In 2020, I would like to gather all of the world’s robots and aim to hold an Olympics where they compete in technical skills,”

he told reporters from Japan’s Jiji Press agency. Abe hopes that the robotics industry can help revitalize Japan’s economy, which has been stagnating under the pressures of deflation for decades now.

He believes that robotics will be particularly important for Japan’s future because of the country’s aging population and declining workforce.

Population pyramids for Japan show how its population is aging whil the size of its younger workforce is shrinking

Abe’s announcement comes during a time of major robot launches in Japan. One of these is a robotic suit which can be controlled just by thinking. It was designed by the company Cyberdyne.

The suit picks up the weak electrical impulses that our brains send to our limbs when we start to move. The robot is then able to move perfectly in sync with that motion, providing extra strength and stability to the movement. It’s hoped that it will drastically improve the lives of people living with ailments that effect movement, like muscular dystrophy or serious arthritis.

A humanoid robot, named “Pepper” was also revealed earlier this month, by major cell phone company SoftBank. Pepper’s creators claim the robot can understand human emotions as well as 70-80% of spontaneous conversation.

The field of robotics is making huge advancements, maybe none more impressive than the robotic suit that allowed Juliano Pinto to kick-off the World Cup back on June 12.

The suit was designed by the Walk Again Project, a project headed by  Miguel Nicolelis, a Brazilian neuroscientist based at Duke University. Nicoleleis hopes the project will make relatively normal movement a real possibility for people left paralyzed by spinal injuries.

Read the original story from the Telegraph here.


A Computer Just Passed the Turing Test, Convincing People It Was A 13-Year Old Boy

Alan Turing was a code-breaker in World War II who became a pioneer in the field of computer science after the war ended. In 1950, he theorized that if a machine could be designed that was indistinguishable from a real man, it would be proof that the machine was actually thinking.

To carry out the test, human participants have five-minute conversations with a machine, and afterwards are asked whether they thought there was a robot or a real human on the other end. Despite the fact that the test only requires the computer to fool 30% of the human subjects, no computer had ever succeeded.

That is until last Saturday, when a machine known as “Eugene Goostman” convinced 33% of test subjects that it was a real 13-year old boy.

Participants posed questions to the Goostman through a computer interface to decide whether or not he was real

The machine was tested along with 4 others at London’s Royal Society last Saturday on the 60th anniversary of Turing’s death.

Professor Kevin Warwick is a professor of cybernetics at the University of Reading. He had this to say about the result of the recent Turing Test:

“In the field of artificial intelligence there is no more iconic and controversial milestone than the Turing Test… It is fitting that such an important landmark has been reached at the Royal Society in London, the home of British science and the scene of many great advances in human understanding over the centuries. This milestone will go down in history as one of the most exciting.”

Alan Turing- the designer of the test (Photo: Getty Images)

The machine was designed by the duo of Vladimir Veselov, who was born in Russia but now lives in the United States, and Eugene Demchenko, who was born in Ukraine but now lives in Russia.

Though there have been a handful of claims of machines passing the test before, Professor Warwick points out that none of these tests proved to be “true” Turing tests:

“A true Turing Test does not set the questions or topics prior to the conversations. We are therefore proud to declare that Alan Turing’s test was passed for the first time.”

I wouldn’t say that this is proof that Eugene Goostman was actually thinking (as hypothesized by Turing), but regardless, it is a huge step for the fields of computer science and artificial intelligence.

Read more from The Telegraph here.

Google Puts $30 Million Up for Grabs In A Lunar Landing Competition

Google has created a lunar landing competition for private teams and/or companies to compete in. The competition, known as the “Google Lunar XPRIZE“, is offering successful participants over $30 million and is being called the “largest international incentive based prize of all time”.

In order to win the prize, a team or company must fist safely land their craft on the surface of the Moon. Then, the craft must travel above, below, or across the moon’s surface for at least 500 meters.

Finally, it must send back at least two “Mooncasts” (a video transmitted live from the lunar surface) for viewers on Earth. All of these tasks must be completed by December 31, 2015.

Google obviously has a financial stake in the $30 million competition, whether it be for publicity, marketing, branding or whatever else, but these are not Google’s only motivations. According to Google Lunar XPRIZE’s official website, the competition also hopes to,

“…create a new “Apollo” moment for this generation and to spur continuous lunar exploration,”

referring to the Apollo 11 mission, which put man on the moon for the first time. The website also points out that,

“More than half of the world’s population has never had the opportunity to view a live transmission from the lunar surface.”

Google Lunar XPRIZE is offering a grand prize of $20 million for the first place winner, but teams will also be competing for bonus prizes throughout the competition by completing specific terrestrial or in-space milestones.

Offering these milestone prizes and extra bonuses helps to encourage teams to continue to compete and innovate for the entirety of the competition, since it gives them the opportunity to obtain a return on their investments even if they don’t ultimately win the grand prize.

Also, the competition will be great publicity for any up-and-coming aerospace and robotics engineers or companies taking part.

Check out the video below to learn a little bit more about Google Lunar XPRIZE…

The teams competing have come from all over the world, and range from groups of college kids to sophisticated engineering and technology companies.

Teams had to register in 2010 and meet specific requirements to be eligible. The count started with 33 qualified teams, but is now down to just 18.

Hopefully one or even several of these teams will soon be opening new doors to the moon.

Korean Scientists Just Built A Two-Legged Robot That Can Outrun Usain Bolt (Video)

They call it the “Raptor”, and its design is largely based on the anatomy and dynamic movement of the velociraptor which roamed the Earth nearly 100 million years ago.

At 46 km/h (26.8 mph), it is the fastest two-footed robot ever, faster even than the world’s fastest man Usian Bolt, whose top speed has been clocked at 43.92 km/h.

The robot, designed by scientists at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), uses a number of elements from nature, including an “achilles tendon” which helps with shock absorption and a tail which assists with balance.

These features allow the robot to navigate over obstacles without hardly breaking stride.

However, the robot is still confined to the treadmill, needing a bar for support.

For more, check out the original story from the International Business Times here.

Meet OutRunner: The World’s Fastest Legged Robot (Video)

Colton and Sebastian from Robotics Unlimited claimed to have created, “the most advanced running robot in the world”.

The robot known as OutRunner is not just fast, it is the world’s fastest legged robot. OutRunner reaches tops speeds of up to 45 mph on a treadmill and 25 mph in outdoor testing.

Check Out the video below to see this robot in action…

Cleverly created using “biologically inspired” function, the OutRunner affectively simulates running using animal biomechanics.

Its running motion is similar to that of the Costa Rican basilisk lizard, also known as the Jesus lizard because of its remarkable ability to run on water.

OutRunner is currently raising funds on kickstarter, where you can buy your very own and support the engineers and creators behind this legged masterpiece.

NASA Releases Over 1000 of Their Computer Software Codes Hoping to Spark Innovation

Yesterday (4/10/14), NASA officially launched their Tech Tansfer program, making the computer codes for over 1000 different NASA programs available to the public.

NASA published the codes in an open-access software catalog, in the hopes that independent coders or software designers will provide innovations to the NSA.

Front cover of the Tech Transfer catalog (Image: NASA)

Here’s Jim Adams, deputy chief technologist at NASA:

“NASA is committed to the principles of open government … By making NASA resources more accessible and usable by the public, we are encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship. Our technology transfer program is an important part of bringing the benefit of space exploration back to Earth for the benefit of all people.”

According to NASA, the new catalog will include codes for:

  • project management systems
  • design tools
  • data handling
  • image processing
  • life support functions
  • aeronautics
  • structural analysis robotic and autonomous systems

Read more from NASA here. If you want to browse the catalog, visit their Tech Transfer website here.

Bill Gates: Yes, Robots Really Will Be Taking Your Jobs. And Soon

Last week, Bill Gates gave a talk at a meeting for the American Enterprise Institute’s Freedom Project (watch the full video at bottom of this post).

He discussed a number of things, but focused on how much progress we have made in the battle against poverty in recent years, pointing out that the number of people living in extreme poverty has dropped 80% over the past four decades.

Gates at the AEI Freedom Project Conference
Gates at the AEI Freedom Project Conference

Gates also stressed, however, that we need to be preparing for a not-so-distant future when robots and computers replace the majority of the jobs we have today:

“Software substitution, whether it’s for drivers or waiters or nurses… it’s progressing… Technology over time will reduce demand for jobs, particularly at the lower end of skill set… 20 years from now, labor demand for lots of skill sets will be substantially lower. I don’t think people have that in their mental model.”

Manufacturing Output vs. Manufacturing Employment (click to enlarge)

I discuss this trend in more depth in this opinion piece from last November.

While the unskilled, blue-collar jobs will be likely to go, it’s only a matter of time until “professional” jobs like accountants, pilots, and real estate agents are also replaced.

For more, check out these stories from BGR and The Business Insider. Gates’s full speech to the AEI can be viewed below.